Our trip from Milan to Florence took about 2 hours on the 300km/h high speed FresciaRossa line. Always a fun time on high speed trains! Once in Florence we performed the now common task of orientating ourselves at the train station and then proceeding to walk to our next Airbnb. After about a 20 min walk we arrived at our new digs which had the added benefit of A/C, a welcome discovery! What happened next was the customary coin flip and I was once again stuck with the sofa bed while the other got the master suite. Since it was World Cup we decided to go into Florence to find a pub to watch the game from. As we walked into the downtown area for the first time we quickly noticed the amount of tourists in this city was astounding. It was very common to hear people speaking English to one another as we walked through the streets. We later found out from a waiter that the current tourist trend is Russians, Brazilians, and Americans alongside the usual British and Scandinavians. As we toured around we got a brief glimpse of the Duomo as well as some of the other tall structures in the city. As the time approached 7pm we found a spot on google maps and managed to find a seat in a crowded pub and settled in to watch England loose to Croatia in extra time. The pub was full of British people which were not happy about the outcome but had a good time nonetheless.
The Arno River.
On day two we decided we would venture over the Arno river and into the south side of Florence. Here we saw what remains of the old city walls and a large southern gate from the 1400’s. Much of the wall had been razed during various attacks so only select sections remain.
The old south entrance to the city.
After a quick water break we ventured into what we thought was the Boboli gardens which was a disappointment until we realized we were in the wrong park. After finding the correct Boboli gardens we admired many of the sculptures and hedged walkways that the garden has to offer.
One of the many statues in Boboli gardens.
Eventually we made the climb to the top and admired the wonderful views of Florence from the Fontana delle scimmie and the Vasca delle Nettuno (fountain of Neptune).
The fountain of Neptune.
We were also interested in visiting the Piazzale Michelangelo to witness some more panoramic views of Florence so we proceeded to walk down one hill and thought that walking up another would be too much work.
The trip downhill, luckily it was a one way street so you see the cars racing upward and move away instead of being hit.
It sounded like a perfect time for a break and a couple Aperol Spritzers! Once refreshed we joined the crowds of tourists for the climb up to the lookout. Hopefully the pictures do it some justice.
View from the top with the Duomo on the left in the distance.
As the sun went down we found a restaurant in the downtown area for some dinner. We chose Osteria dei Pazzi and both enjoyed some appetizers as well as a monster Florention Steak cooked to the chefs preference of medium-rare.
Florentine Steak cooked to medium-rare
After a giant gelato that ended up costing us 8€ we wandered back to our home for the night. On our way home we discovered a party in a park near our home where people of all ages were dancing and drinking late into the night. A fun sight for us to see!
The local party scene.
The next day was our Duomo day! I had bought the tickets while we were still in Milan and had reserved a time for us to make the ascent. With both of us being a little scared of heights we were hesitant but up for the challenge. We made our way into the city and had some pizza for lunch alongside a couple more Aperol Spritzers before making our way over to the Duomo for our reserved time.
The cathedral from the outside.
View of the Duomo from the Bell Tower. The cupola where we would be is visible just above the red bricks of the duomo.
We passed through security with ease and started the 463 step climb up to the cupola. As you perform the climb you arrive at a walkway constructed at the beginning of the dome that overlooks the cathedral floor below. Here they have installed plexiglass barriers to prevent people from falling over as the stone railing probably doesn’t meet current safety requirements. This was an especially challenging part as there is only one way up to the cupola and you have to wait on the ledge looking down for people to come down first. Eventually our time came and we began to navigate the narrow passageways towards the top.
A couple facts about the Duomo:
– it spans 45m at its widest, starts 55m above the floor of the cathedral, and consists of 463 steps to get to the cupola at the top,
– because of the height above the floor that the dome starts it was not feasible to use scaffolding, Brunelleschi built the dome layer by layer using internal rubbing.
– the dome also contains two layers, an inner and outer layer. This allowed for protection from the elements of the inner staircases and also so that the inner hallways would not been seen once completed.
– there no abutments along the bottom of the dome to keep it from spreading laterally, this is why Brunelleschi chose ribbing both vertically and horizontally.
– construction of the dome began in 1420 after a two year competition. It was eventually finished in 1436.
Inside the dome walls.
Looking out from inside the dome.
Climbing to the top! And yes it is that steep (like climbing a ladder) and not for the faint of heart.
Once at the top we took a few mins to soak in the views (and the height!) and made our way back down to the ground.
North facing view.
South facing view.
We also made use of the other aspects of our tickets and explored the baptistery and climbed up the bell tower next to the cathedral. A great investment for only 18€. We also walked to the fancy Ponte Vecchio which is a bridge crossing the Arno river that is home to many expensive jewelry shops. In the evening we enjoyed a couple more Negroni before having a wonderful pasta dinner.
Ravioli stuffed with porchinni mushrooms and eggplant.
The Arno River. You can slightly see Ponte Vecchio in the back right. It’s a bridge but all the shops built on top make it look like a continuation of the city.
The Arno River.
Our last day in Florence was a bit of a relaxation day as both of us were feeling pretty tired from all the walking we had been doing. We were averaging about 30,000 steps every day. We got up a little later and I grabbed some focaccia and cherries at the local grocery for brunch.
A truck on a truck I saw while walking to the grocery store.
Later we walked into the downtown core and found a nice sandwich shop right next to the restaurant we had gone to the night before. We were hoping to go to the sandwich place earlier but the open hours were strange and it had been closed the other times. We both got our sandwiches (I got chicken while the other got some sort of pulled beef soaked in oil) and we sat in the nearby Piazza della Signoria to eat and people watch. People watching in Florence is very interesting because of all the tourists from all over the world. So many different cultures.
As many had mentioned to me before I left, the amount of statues and sculptures in Italy is insane! Every corner you turn around contains another sculpture on the side of a few hundred year old building. Crazy!
Another sculpture on the side of a church like building.
We walked back to our apartment stopping for one last gelato on the way and layed down for the night. The next day was a travel day, we would catch the high speed train at S.M. Novella station bound for Rome Termini.